posted on April 26, 2012 01:35
Tested: 2013 Scion FR-S
By Jeff Naeyaert and Steve Rockwood
Nearly every mass-produced car we come across today is governed, designed, regulated, or otherwise manipulated by a committee. As a result, nearly all of them stink. When Toyota and Subaru set out to design the FR-S in 2007, the first thing they did was throw out the committees. Finally, after hearing about this car for seemingly a decade, MotoIQ gets a chance behind the wheel on the track and on the road.
The sad truth is that cars affordable to Joe C. Average have either become boring transportation pods, overweight people movers, or gimmick-laden sporting poseurs. Take a tour at just about any new car dealership, and you will certainly see plenty of extremely well-engineered cars that proclaim awesomeness on the window sticker, but sitting in the driver's seat does not give you that same sense of satisfaction. The transportation pods may get you from point A to B with minimal fuss and reasonable economy, but they get you there by reducing your involvement with the machine beneath you to as minimal a level as possible. Infotainment systems and gimmicks distract you, overly intrusive stability control systems keep you from stepping out of line, and forgettable and lousy handling dynamics await you should you remember that secret computer handshake that defeats the anti-hoon software – secret handshakes that make those of us who are products of the 80s reminisce about the video game Contra. In short, ho-hum is pervasive throughout the average transportation pod. The sporting-poseurs can be more of an affront than the pods, as they merely imply that you can accomplish feats of supercar strength, but ultimately fall short when the time comes to deliver with overweight handling dynamics, recalcitrant interfaces, and other unwanted products of the spec-sheet age.
No auto manufacturer better epitomized the transportation pod than Toyota, whose lineup of fuss-free cars became so appealing to the soon-to-be-retired that AARP memberships should've been a standard option on every vehicle. Years of selling nothing but family sedans, minivans, trucks, and SUVs had turned the company that brought you the AE86 into a company whose chief engineering feat was the supremely boring Prius, and whose last idea of a trackday special was a truck. While wildly successful in the last 10 years, the company lacked an enthusiast's car, and CEO Akio Toyoda knew it. Without success in the youth market, who would be the Toyota faithful in the future to buy their cars? Enter the Scion FR-S, designed with Akio's mantra of "if it's not fun to drive, it's not a car" firmly in mind.
The idea for the "86" concept, as the FR-S/BRZ were internally known, came about after Toyota's alliance with Subaru in 2005 as a symbol of the two companies. Rather than going the easy way out with a high-priced supercar, or moderately priced 3 Series killer, the two companies sought to make a true entry-level sports car that would give people a direct idea of how cool a car could be. The basic goals were ambitious, yet simple: keep it light, keep it rear wheel drive, make it fun, keep it cheap, and keep everything in balance. Using the boxer four would represent Subaru's engine mastery, and the front engine, rear drive layout would represent Toyota's return to some of its sporting roots with cars like the 1967 2000GT.
|The 1967 Toyota 2000GT is said to be the spiritual predecessor to the FR-S, and some of its styling cues can be seen. This pristine model was on hand during the press event.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 5:31 AM
Looks like it is everything that was promised, the 86 is definitely on my shopping list!
Thursday, April 26, 2012 6:08 AM
"Without success in the youth market, who would be the Toyota faithful in the future to buy their cars?"
I can kindof see the logic here, but I think it has a tragic flaw. If Toyota sells the crap out of these things to young people (and I hope they do), won't it turn said young people on to actual driver's cars? And when those young people get older; won't they STILL want a driver's car, just a bigger nicer one?
It seems to me that the more likely progression is for a 20-something to buy a Scion FR-S, drive the wheels off it for the next decade and then trade it in for a BMW or some other more grown-up and yet still fun-to-drive car. I think the problem that Toyota will have is that the rest of their products are still too lame to bridge the gap. FR-S owners will learn to love good driving dynamics and will seek that quality out in other brands.
Toyota DOES have a few years to deal with the issue though. Perhaps they could make a Lexus that isn't as absurdly bland and numb as they are now. The recently-tested GS 350 F Sport seems like a step in the right direction, but it is still a long, long way off from it's Bavarian rivals. Hell, the way I see it fucking Cadillac is closer to the mark than Lexus is right now. Toyota better get their ass moving and build some proper cars for the soon-to-be-captured youth market to move into as they get older.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 7:52 AM
I cannot get excited about a sports car whose anemic torque peak is 1,000 RPM away from redline.
Bolt a turbocharger on or drop a torquier engine in there, though, and I'll seriously consider buying one.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 8:11 AM
nice job Jeff...
Thursday, April 26, 2012 9:06 AM
I must be cynical for a second though, any speculations as to what it's Achilles Heel will be? Every car has one.
If I had $25K I would be at my Subaru/Scion Dealer in a heart beat!
Thursday, April 26, 2012 9:10 AM
I think the only Achilles' heel will be the lack of grunt. The aftermarket is already working on fixing that. Perhaps Toyobaru will release a turbocharged version similar to the Mazdaspeed MX-5.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 9:29 AM
I was really hoping this would be a hatchback car like the tC. I've owned nothing but hatches because they are so damn useful! TVs, furniture, engines, tires...everything fits in a hatchback and when you empty it out it's still a fun car (I can fit all 4 slicks, as well as my tools and other gear in the back of my S13 hatch when I go autocrossing. No trailer needed!). Is there going to be an option for a hatch in the future? If there is, I may very well look at one of these as a graduation car.
My big concern is still the ridiculous Toyota reliability. My dad's Matrix just hit 200K and the thing is a wreck. Before my friend junked his Camry the driver's door would no longer open. The Subarus my friends have owned have held together just as well. If these cars fall apart in a few years, then they're going to be the Fieros of the new generation: great promises, but in the end forgotten.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 9:53 AM
"My big concern is still the ridiculous Toyota reliability. My dad's Matrix just hit 200K and the thing is a wreck."
Huh? Does rediculous = good or bad? 200k miles is pretty good in my book. Most cars don't even make it that far.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 10:30 AM
@ Dusty: Torque peak only 1000rpm away from redline isn't a bad thing. Nothing happening until 1000rpm away from redline is. The Scion, while not a car that'll shove you into your seat, doesn't have that torqueless wonder feel a Honda does.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 10:46 AM
Insideline dyno tested one:
It actually has a pretty flat torque curve with 85% of peak available from ~2200rpm to ~7200rpm. It has a weird dip at 4k rpms, but basically peak torque is available from 2500-3500 and 4500-6500 rpms.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 11:57 AM
Pic in the rain: crazy Ackermann or understeer?
Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:01 PM
Probably crazy ham-fisting behind the wheel from one our honorable media counterparts...
Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:21 PM
...that's me trying to drift :/
Thursday, April 26, 2012 1:47 PM
I can't tell if this thing is going to help or hinder sales of the 2.0T Genesis. Especially with the upgrades its just received the Genesis really outpowers the FR-S but power isn't everything right?
Thursday, April 26, 2012 2:40 PM
@ Jeff: I wasn't going to say anything and protect your anonymity... ;-p
@ Fly'n_Z: This car appeals to a whole other demographic, IMO, but will steal sales from it. I think Toyota is correct in expecting 15-20k sales pear year, and I'm glad they didn't expect more.
Plus, the insurance rates for this car should be cheaper.
Thursday, April 26, 2012 2:50 PM
@DrunkenMessiah - I think you answered your own question in your post... assume a bunch of young buyers jump into an FR-S. It will still be at least 5 or 10 yrs before they are looking to upgrade to a luxury/different car, which gives Toyota/Lexus the extra time to make a car that fits the bill appropriately. Toyota already has rock-solid reliability in its court and would hopefully have a bunch of happy FR-S owners shopping for a new ride. And if Toyota takes fun-to-drive cars seriously and applies it throughout the entire line up (even the new Camry has been a surprisingly good driver) AND maintains/improves reliability, then watch out!
I'm dying to check one of these things out and see how big the trunk is. I'd have to be able to fit my bass rig into it before trying to justify buying one... and I really hope it fits!! I agree that if it were a hatch, ala the old Mazda6, it would make the deal even sweeter, but presumably that would negatively impact the body ridgidity, right?
btw, cool FR-S branded water bottles. =P
Thursday, April 26, 2012 3:31 PM
I so want that 2000GT....
Thursday, April 26, 2012 9:01 PM
Beauty of an AE86 is ability in simplicity on the Downhill..
being the fastest Drag vehicle or Street car is Not what helped it to develop icon status.
From the looks of it the FR-S seems to have many design attributes to be a worthy successor?
people complaining about any lack of "power"
prolly have a lack of Touge driving skill/experience??
Realize you don't take a knife to a gun fight...
just as a surgeon doesn't grab a machete when the job requires a Scalpel.
Friday, April 27, 2012 12:42 AM
In one of the pics, I saw height adjustable coil over shocks. Was this a production car, or were there other parts installed. Adjusting ride height of a stock car is something I have not seen before. That would be pretty cool to be able to close the gap between the wheels and fenders. Stock cars just seem to sit a bit high for my taste. I don't want it in the weeds, just an inch or so lower seems to do the trick.
Great write up by the way. I was really interested in the brz, but with only 5000 being produced, there is going to be a premium on them and the dealer I talked to said each dealer was only getting 2 a month and they were selling at sticker, but others would be marking them up heavily. This puts Scion ahead for me. I am a debadger anyway so it will mostly be the front that is scion. I really like what this car represents. I don't really get the part about people crying about the power. If you want a big power car get a mustang or camero. I want fun and precise handling. I think this looks like my next car.
Friday, April 27, 2012 6:27 AM
@heyitsclint: The under body pics were from a previous MotoIQ article and that car had aftermarket suspension. So no ride height adjustment stock, but obviously coilovers are not far away!
@gman waayy up there: Rdiciculous meaning bad. 200K is pretty good, but that car has seen a lot of repairs, including a new transmission at 150K. My first Integra went through far less maintenance even though it had an extra 70K on the clock and was over 20 years old when I had to get rid of it. That Integra also had fewer screw ups from the factory. In the Matrix, one of the seatbelts was installed backwards when we bought it among other small things that were either missing or done wrong.
Friday, April 27, 2012 10:09 AM
@ Clint: Yeah, I jacked photos from a previous article to illustrate on the points I was making in the article.
@ 8695: Such sad times we live in when a transmission ONLY lasts 150k... ;-p
Friday, April 27, 2012 10:13 AM
"Simplicity on the 'downhill'"? "Touge driving"? Stop watching so much Initial D. It's rotting your brain.
There are plenty of people who have lots of driving experience who are criticizing this car for a lack of power. Every review I've ever read (with exception of this one) says "great handling car, but it needs more power."
Like I said, the aftermarket (and hopefully Toyobaru) is striving to fix this with some forced-induction goodness.
Friday, April 27, 2012 2:07 PM
I can't wait to actually see one in person! The lack of power thing doesn't concern me. The same thing has been said about my RX8, and they aren't wrong, but the thing is still hella fun to drive.
Friday, April 27, 2012 2:29 PM
I would really like to see one of these go up against a Mazda RX-8. Similar power to weight ratio, 6-speed, FR, etc... I loved my RX-8 minus the terrible gas mileage. Similar torque ratings too. The 8 has the advantage of making max torque at 5500 and revving to 9K.
Friday, April 27, 2012 3:16 PM
Oh, it could use more power, it just doesn't need it, especially if it means changing the price point. I assume this car will take to the aftermarket well. With that compression ratio, a set of cams will likely really wake it up.
The only thing that concerns me is if the Toyota D-4S system can be modified at all...
Saturday, April 28, 2012 8:59 AM
I think the weak link will be heat management an oil control. What are the odds the engine is over-built, or has a baffled oil pan? Can the transmission and rear end handle twice the torque? How quickly does the cooling system go into limp mode?
Saturday, April 28, 2012 4:37 PM
Jasonrg77: I can't say much for the heat management or oil control (though that being said, I would think Subaru would probably have taken some hints from various complaints on NASIOC about certain oil pan issues on EJ engines, but that has relatively little to do with oil "control", and almost everything to do with making sure the oil is kept IN the engine at higher power levels), but given that the last article on the FR-S/BRZ's suspension and whatnot revealed that the rear end appears to be a Toyota 7" (also known as the diff in the Altezza RS200 and almost every light Toyota pickup), I would say it should handle extra torque, but that'll be up to the first few people with a wild hair up their ass to get their hands on it and see if they can blow it up to figure that one out.
I'm interested to see how the different aftermarket companies are gonna tackle turbocharging this thing, if only because of how tightly packed that engine bay seems to be (or rather, how filled with useless crap it is). As far as I can tell, in order to turbocharge this with any sort of reliability, you would need to pretty much take everything in front of and underneath the engine out, and replace it all with new equipment that mounts almost completely differently. Personally, I'd be up for the challenge of designing a good kit for the car, but I can't even afford the car itself at the moment, much less afford to tear it up and fabricate components for it :/. Good thing I just got a second job I guess, 'cuz I don't really wanna get rid of my GM6 (2.5RS coupe to you) or my AE86 to help afford it. I'd rather have the whole family of three, as it were ;)
Saturday, April 28, 2012 9:20 PM
They had a ton of FT86/BRZ's at Tsubuka for the Hyper event a few weeks ago and they look amazing in person. The engine bay is actually pretty open, and there is a tidy little space between the motor and the radiator, which happens to be right next to the exhaust mani. Almost looks like that space was left for a purpose....
I love these cars, but there is almost no room for wider wheels/tires, and I'm pretty sure with all the press reaction we will have a factory turbo option for 2014 or 2015, that's what I'm holding out for. I only hope that MSRP doesn't balloon out of control, and that my daughter is still small enough for me to excuse the back seat at that point.
Sunday, April 29, 2012 7:45 AM
Yeah, it looked like there was some space underneath the piping/in front of the lower portion of the accessory belt, but I feel like that'd be more like where they'd mount the turbo than the intercooler. To be honest, it seems like it'd be great for a properly designed air-water setup. Wouldn't be a bad idea with a well matched twinscroll for good response and bumper to bumper traffic heat management, or so I would think. That being said, I have no personal experience with twinscroll turbos or air-water intercoolers, so feel free to take this opinion with a grain of salt. Personally, if I were to pick up one of these to develop parts for, I would highly consider a relatively simple EFR and Laminova kit with some small electric fans for the heat exchanger to aid in keeping IAT's down in traffic.
As for there being little room for wider wheels/tires, the supposed turbocharged factory option would be coming from Subaru, wouldn't it? As in the folks that have this funny tendency to make an "STI" trim of their small, sporty compact segment models with wider fenders, among other performance goodies?
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